January 19, 2022

Rejoice in the Lord 12-12-2021

12th December 2021 (Advent 3)

Title: Rejoice in the Lord 

(Scripture Reading: Zephaniah 3:14–20 & Philippians 4:4–7)

                                                                                      By Heeyoung Lim

In Zephaniah 1:4, God had fought against Judah and now He will save and defend them. Believers do not need to fear because the LORD, the King of Israel, is with them. 3:14–20 rejoices in the hope of Jerusalem’s restoration through the One who will gather Israel. Zephaniah is calling the people of Jerusalem “daughter” and renewing his love for them (14, 17). How does God bring us home or destination in this season of preparation and waiting? 

Today’s text includes God’s exaltation of the suffering and the outcast. God’s presence protects and rejoices. God shows us the fulfillment of God’s promises in the journey of Advent through prophets. Christ’s presence and blessing will bring inexpressible joy and absolute security to His people in accordance with God’s words. As the joy candle is lit, may we give thanks for our gladness, remember all who are in sorrow, and care for them.

As a result of social injustice, the oppressed are fearful, while the powerful are corrupt and reject divine correction. In Zephaniah 3, the ways in which God will deal with the oppressors have been described for those who have suffered at their unjust hands: “I will deal with all your oppressors and save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth” (3:19)

God’s promises are being achieved for protecting and lifting the lowly, the suffering, and the oppressed. We find an unfolding of God’s promises in many places throughout the biblical narratives such as the prophetic word, the coming of Jesus, and the kingdom of God.

The prophetic word through Zephaniah affirms that some of God’s purposes are to make injustice right, to heal the shame that results from oppression. In the exaltation of the humble and lowly, Zephaniah finds both a divine rejection of the abuses of power and a divine promise to protect the weak and the outcast.

In verse 15 and 17, the prophet affirms that God is with the people and will continue to be in them. God’s presence protects His people from harm and God rejoices with them. The people will live without fear, trusting that God saves them from disaster and all kinds of attack. However, God’s presence does more than remove threats. A theologian Jennifer said, “His presence among the people is animating, in that God rejoices with them, renews them, and exults over them.” I believe that God frees and strengthens us by being present among us and God’s presence heals and leads us to lean into God’s promises. In dwelling among the people, God makes real the promised future of peace and joy. This is a hopeful message that will encourage the faithful on this Third Sunday of Advent.

As the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus nears, we are challenged to remember God’s living promise to protect and exalt the lowly. This is the time in which the prophetic word, the coming of the Messiah, and the shape of the kingdom of God are derived and embodied. It is also the place in which the character of God is revealed.

Biblical thought and the tendency of obeying God’s word understands hope as the expectation of a good future which rests on God’s promise. A good future itself is not our ultimate goal, but we can look to Jesus as our hope and expect even in the dark times and difficult trials. May we praise the Lord for the promise of our glorious future with Christ.

However, when we are in the middle of sorrow, despair, and suffering, we often do not recognize the work of God. Why can we not live in joy? When we forget the gladness of salvation and God’s unconditional love, we will be living without joy. What are we doing where it seems there is no better place? How can we deal with dark times? How can we help suffering families and grieving people? 

In these complicated circumstances, Philippians 4 invites us to be joyful in the Lord. Gospel joy is always shared joy. When Paul calls on the church to rejoice, in those times, Christians were being hunted, persecuted, and killed in Rome. During persecution and fear, Paul simply points to the promise and recalls the peace of God that passes all understanding. 

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (4-7) 

In 4:4–7 Paul powerfully exhorts his Philippian friends to rejoice. Happiness from contemporary social discourse is something that is pursued, and it is tied up in the pursuit, but rejoicing in the Lord comes even in the face of trials and suffering. As in verse 5, may our gentleness or Christlikeness be known to everyone. 

In accordance with these Bible verses, we can rejoice in the Lord and this word is a command. Joy Brings Patience, and prayer is the answer to anxiety, but our joy cannot be complete without peace. Paul’s advice to his readers to counter the anxiety of their lives with prayer is not just a simple alternative designed to hide or avoid the fear and uncertainty of their daily existence. This is a call to take those anxieties to God in prayer and allow God to reform us. 

And joy Brings Peace. Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but the active pursuit of a right relationship with God. It is a peace that may pass our understanding but, in God’s reign, can be blessedly reached. Joy in the Christ-aided direction is a joy that can withstand even the dark struggles of Advent! May we reconcile our broken relationships and trust God even in our greatest worry.

Why can we not live in peace? Peace which passes all understanding is of God. It comes to us when we need it most and, with no other options, yield ourselves to God. I believe that we can understand peace through praising God who passes all understanding and welcoming Jesus who comes to us. The peace of God comes from prayer involving both asking God for earthly needs and thanking God for his presence. May we rejoice in the Lord, pray in all things, and keep our mind on positive thoughts in Christ, and as we do, God’s peace will be ours.

Real joy comes from knowing that God loves us no matter what. We cannot expect for us to always be happy, but we can remember that God’s promises to love us in good times and bad times is continued. That news is giving us joy, and God’s peace is much bigger than we can understand or imagine. His peace takes care of us, and that is real joy! We can write down “Today’s Joys” and “Today’s Thanks” in our daily lives. We can also invite others to share the joy they are experiencing. May we understand or accept all the different feelings people have and help people find real joy through any pain they may be feeling.

Today’s good news is a promise of restoration to the right relationships. The promise is not based on our own strength, it is based on who we are as God’s children. When we are in the right relationship with one another and with God then God will be pleased with us. May God’s presence free us from fear and move us to rejoice. May we look beyond the punishment to the restoration which is key to God’s relationship with God’s people. God will restore us, and we will rejoice in the Lord. God tells us that we do not rejoice because we have something to rejoice, but if we rejoice in the Lord, that joy will bring us restoration and peace. I believe that even weary worshipers will be transformed into those who rejoice in the Lord.

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)